Story by Melanie Buck
Photo Courtesy Courtney Howell
“The Alternative Fall Break Through: A Plunge into Des Moines” takes place Oct. 12 – 16.
It will expose participants to different cultures, places, values and people in the Des Moines area, as well as different volunteer opportunities they can get involved in.
“As Drake students, they are going to be here for four years of their lives, they might as well make the most of it and not just engage in the Drake community but in the neighborhoods around it,” said Ann Den Hartog, a senior service-learning ambassador at Drake.
The alternative fall break costs $20, which includes community exploration, reflection booklet, transportation and select meals.
There are also scholarships available if needed. They accept all students no matter what year or major.
The first alternative fall break was in fall 2012.
Last year, eight students participated in the fall break. Again this year, eight students are planning to participate.
“Students who participated in the program have either gotten involved in other service opportunities, gone on to become AmeriCorps Members or are returning to do the program again in 2013,” said Mandi McReynolds, the director of community engagement and service-learning at Drake.
“Too often we think of service breaks and service trips and alternative breaks as glamorized,” said Courtney Howell, a full-time volunteer at the Office of Community Engagement and Service-Learning at Drake.
“You’re going somewhere else to do service, and it’s treated as though those service trips aren’t needed in your hometown, and that’s just not true. There’s just as much need here in Des Moines,” Howell said.
It is her second year running the program.
Last year, she served as a service-learning ambassador.
“There is a lot of cool stuff to do in Des Moines that you wouldn’t see if you just stay on campus,” Howell said. “Des Moines has much more to offer than what’s on Drake’s campus.”
During those five days there will be bonding opportunities, games, group dinners, a documentary, speakers, tours and various volunteer opportunities.
“It is an intense weekend, but there is time off too,” Den Hartog said.
The first service-learning project is Meals from the Market at the Downtown Farmers Market.
On Saturday, participants will go to the Downtown Farmers’ Market, collect food from different vendors and load it on a truck.
The fresh food is then taken to the Des Moines Area Religious Council where it is given to those in need.
Students will also volunteer at a harvest party hosted by Buy Fresh, Buy Local.
It is a national campaign but Des Moines’ local Buy Fresh, Buy Local organizers are from the Drake Agricultural Office in the Law School.
Students will also volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and do various service-projects.
Students will learn more about social justice in Des Moines, by going to three different organizations, Children and Family Urban Ministries, Des Moines Area Religious Council and Proteus.
“We want students to become aware of different issues in the community and then how they can become a part of it and how different organizations are meeting those needs,” Den Hartog said.
Students will be touring and learning more about those organizations as well as volunteering for them.
McReynolds said, “Participation in service-learning is key to meeting the Drake mission to build engaged global citizen with meaningful personal and professional lives.”